CARIBOU, Maine — Michelle Hanson and the Frederick’s Southside crew have been working hard to maintain the Caribou restaurant, delivering signature dishes ranging from chicken melts and homemade doughnuts to pizzas with special crust and sauces. Now, Hanson’s efforts are being recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
On March 16, the SBA announced Hanson as the winner of the Woman Owned Small Business of the Year Award for Maine.
“I’m thankful to my crew, family and everyone who helped me get where I am today,” said Hanson. “Without them, I wouldn’t be recognized at all.”
Hanson also expressed special thanks to Jamie Cyr, her restaurant’s salesman.
“Jamie has taken special time to go over things I didn’t understand when I was first starting out,” said Hanson. “He has been very patient while working to get me up to date on everything.”
According to an SBA press release, Hanson was nominated by David Spooner of the Northern Maine Development Commission.
“The SBA could not have chosen a more fitting business for Maine Woman Owned Small Business of the Year,” Spooner said in the press release. “Michelle Hanson is the face of Frederick’s Southside and brings a positive energy to everything she does.”
Frederick’s was established in 1985 by Fred Hackett, a prominent entrepreneur in the community who owned numerous local restaurants. Frederick’s main draw was that it strictly served homemade meals, a tradition that Hanson maintains to this day. Hanson worked for Fred while going to college, and says he was a “respected member of the community.”
In 1989, Frederick’s was purchased by Ralph Hanson, who later married Michelle in 1993.
“I became part of Frederick’s once I married Ralph, and from that point on I tried to stay behind the scenes. I mostly did paperwork back then. In 2012, Ralph took ill and passed away. From that point on, my goal was to maintain the restaurant in hopes that our son Paul would show interest in operating the restaurant.”
Following in his mother’s footsteps, Paul recently won first place in Maine for Business and Merchandising from DECA, a business and marketing program that prepares high school-aged entrepreneurs for future careers.
“It has always been an honor to work here,” said Paul, who is looking to attend Northern Maine Community College for a business degree. “I’m looking at staying local so I can have a foot in the door with the restaurant while I go to college. I really like being here, and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”
Since 2012, Michelle Hanson has faced challenges operating the restaurant by herself, but has successfully maintained the business to this day. Instead of staying behind the scenes, Hanson now opens and closes the restaurant, hires and manages employees, orders food, does cost analysis and menus, and even waits on tables.
“I basically took on everything I didn’t know,” said Hanson. “I always used to say this was Ralph’s business and his love, but now it’s become my business and my love.”
The pressure of managing a successful restaurant has lessened since Hanson’s children are now old enough to help.
“It has its share of challenges but for the most part I like it and it’s easier with the kids being older,” said Hanson. “It can consume your day, but I try not to let anybody notice if I’m stressed.”
Hanson says she is honored that an Aroostook County restaurant was able to win a statewide award.
“It was a nice honor just to be nominated, and that The County is being recognized for having good food. As the week goes on, it’s really starting to hit me how great of an honor this is,” she added.